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Investigation underway after faculty members duct tape 8-year-old girl with special needs’ legs

School investigates after special needs child was sent home with shoes duct taped to legsOfficials with the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township, the Indiana Department of Child Services and law enforcement are investigating after an 8-year-old elementary student, who has Down Syndrome, had her legs duct taped to her shoes.

The girl attended Life Skills Program at Westlake Elementary School, but has since relocated to another school in the district.

The school district said the faculty members involved in the incident have been placed on leave.

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The images of abuse are disturbing.  Students with special needs have suffered bruises, scrapes and even a severed finger allegedly from the hands of educators.

School is supposed to be a sanctuary, a safe place where trusting children learn and grow.  But some parents of students with special needs fear it’s anything but safe.

It seemed unthinkable to Nate Searcy.

His 8-year-old daughter Shaylyn, who has Down Syndrome, was sent home from school with her shoes duct taped to her ankles.

“She couldn’t even walk,” said Nate Searcy, Shaylyn’s father. “She was kind of limping down the aisle.  I didn’t know what was going on.  She had duct tape on her shoes.  Are you serious?  I had to literally pick her up and carry her off the bus.”

Her parents said sometimes Shaylyn didn’t want to wear her shoes at school but her parents were horrified to see they were forced on her feet.

“They could have done something else and then sent her home like that, like we’re not going to have a problem with it,” Searcy said.

When it happened, I asked the Wayne Township School District why duct tape was in the classroom in the first place.

“That is a very good question,” said Wayne Township Spokeswoman Mary Lang.  “That is something we would never think would be used, especially when it comes to anything dealing with a child so that’s a question that’s part of the investigation.”

But now, Nate Searcy wonders what’s happening in the special needs classrooms that he doesn’t see.

“Makes me think what other things are they doing or what have they don’t that we don’t know about?” he said.

Stuart Chaifetz is one father took matters into his own hands.  His son, Akian, has Autism. Stuart planted a recording device on Akian to tape his teacher.

The recording devastated him.  He posted his heartbreak on YouTube.

You can hear the teacher telling Akian, “Go ahead and scream, because guess what? You’re going to get nothing until your mouth is shut.”

Then later she can be heard saying, “Oh, Akian, you are a bastard.”

Chaifetz couldn’t believe it.

“You called my son a bastard, you made him cry,” he said. “What kind of sick twisted person does that to a 10-year-old boy?”

Stories like Akian’s recording and Shaylyn’s duct taped feet started a Facebook movement demanding cameras in special needs classrooms nationwide.

“And you think, wow, in this day and age I can’t believe that’s going on,” said Lisa Wells, Executive Director of Down Syndrome Indiana.

Wells said she will never forget how people reacted to the news of the duct tape incident in her office.

“Why wasn’t that educator arrested?” she said.  “Why wasn’t that educator arrested? And simply put, it wasn’t against the law.”

Now, Wells believes cameras in special needs classrooms should be mandated in Indiana schools.  Cameras are in school buses, so why not classrooms?

“If you have a nonverbal student, especially that is experiencing any type of abuse in a classroom, now you have something truly documenting what is going on,” she said.

Wells said the cameras will also protect the teachers.

“This is a way for you to show what a great job you are doing,” she said.

Not all educators agree, though.

“I would say I’m not for cameras in the classroom,” said Mary Rosswurm, Executive Director of the Little Star Center in Carmel.

She helps children with Autism and believes the cameras would interfere with the therapy.

“I think if you know a camera is watching, always looking for something to go wrong, I think it really might stifle some people and their creativity, you know, just their willingness just to engage and be silly with the child,” she said.

Rosswurm said the teachers need to be held accountable to their peers.

“When the child got their feet duct taped, weren’t there other people in the room who might have said, ‘Hey that’s probably not a great idea’?” she said.  “How come nobody else is stepping forward? I think that’s just as alarming.”

Even if not everyone supports cameras in the classroom being the eyes and ears for students with special needs, everyone agrees this needs to stop happening to the most vulnerable students in school who should be celebrating milestones, mainstreaming and creating memories.

Many say the teachers need to be held accountable.  Right now, Texas leads the way to get cameras in special needs classrooms.  Texas Senate Bill 1380 passed in the Senate and it’s expected to pass in the House, making the cameras mandatory in special needs classrooms in the 2013-2014 school year.

Indiana students with special needs just got a little more protection this week when Senate Bill 345 was signed into law.  It was authored by State Senator Randy Head.  It limits and modifies the use of seclusion and restraint techniques on Indiana students.  He said if that doesn’t change the culture he will consider a bill that would put cameras in special needs classroom in Indiana.

The employees who were involved in duct taping the legs of a young girl with special needs have been placed on leave, said the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township.

For the first time, we have a first-hand account of what happened, according to Shaylin. She told her parents that “they duct taped my feet, they pushed me in a wheelchair to the bus.”  Shaylin then told them, “it hurt, no more duct tape.”

Shaylin still had the bruises two days after the incident.

“She has been running around the house for days saying, ‘No duct tape.  You do not touch,’” said Nate Searcy, Shaylin’s father.

“It is something we find appalling and it’s something we are dealing with,” said Mary Lang from the MSD of Wayne Township.

The punishment is not enough for Shaylin’s father.

“I do not think they should be home with pay, I think they should be done working for schools, period,” said Nate Searcy.

Why would there be any reason to have duct tape inside a classroom, inside a school?

“That is a very good question,” said Lang.  “That is something we would never think would be used especially when it comes to anything dealing with a child. So that is a question that is part of the investigation.”

“That just makes me wonder what else they are doing or have done that we do not know about?  Are they taping them to chairs?,” said Searcy.

The school said it will continue its investigation to find out exactly what happened, and why.

“What happened here was an aberration,” said Lang.  “It is something we certainly do not condone.”

Nate Searcy said he was putting Shaylin and her older brother into a different school while his family tries to get back to a nornal life.

“It is going to be a lot of work and a lot of hassle, aggravation,” said Searcy.  “It is something that we just have to keep working through.”

The employees who were involved in duct taping the legs of a young girl with special needs have been placed on leave, said the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township.

The school district said they continue to investigate the incident and have spoken to the child’s family several times since Monday’s incident.

According to police documents, parents Nathaniel and Elizabeth Searcy claimed someone duct taped their 8-year-old daughter’s legs in order to teach her a lesson.

The young girl, who has Down Syndrome, attended the Life Skills Program at Westlake Elementary School.  She has since been relocated to another school in the district at the request of her parents.

“We’re in the process of really trying to figure out exactly what happened, exactly who was involved in it, and how they were involved, but there will be disciplinary action at the end of all this,” said Mary Lang, spokesperson for the school district.

The Searcys told police they knew something was wrong when they went to meet their daughter at the bus stop. They said the bus driver told them they needed to take a look at the little girl’s feet.  That is when they saw duct tape wrapped tightly around her ankles, strapping her shoes to her feet.

According to the police report, the father had to carry his daughter off the bus because he said she was unable to walk due to the tape being so tight. The report also stated the school had trouble getting their daughter to keep her shoes on in the past, but the school would typically call the child’s mother.

“We have to be somewhat careful about the information we release about the investigation but we certainly want the family to know it is underway, that we’re taking it extremely seriously, and we along with them are very appalled about what happened,” Lang said.

As the investigation continues, district officials said they are continuing their efforts to ensure educators understand techniques involved in nonviolent crisis intervention.  Officials said the school district already has ongoing training to help teachers practice safe and effective behavior management techniques, which is outlined in the district’s policy called “Use of Seclusion, Restraint, and Aversion with Students,” which has been in place since 2010.

“We offer training to our teachers who work with special needs students to help then understand what the best ways are to get students who are showing behavior problems to change those behaviors,” Lang said. “We do know the process in this behavior is not a process we would endorse.”

District administrators, the Indiana Department of Child Services and law enforcement are all involved in the investigation.

“What happened here was an aberration,” said Lang. “It’s something we certainly don’t condone.  It’ something we find appalling and it’s something we’re dealing with.”

Proposed legislation at the state house may require schools in Indiana to have a policy on the record when it comes to seclusion and restraint of students.

This comes as 8-year-old Shaylan Searcy, who has Down Syndrome, came home from Westlake Elementary School with her shoes duct taped.

Senate Bill 345 would regulate the use of seclusion and restraint in all Indiana schools, Prevent and reduce the use of physical restraint and seclusion, Protect students from physical or mental abuse.

Kim Dodson, is Executive Director for Arc of Indiana, a group that advocates for Hoosiers with intellectual and developmental disabilities says there are other tools teachers can use instead.

“We have statutes on the books today in Indiana that protects people living in nursing homes, people living in our state prisons and even our juvenile detention centers that protects those that are staying there from seclusion and restraints. We need to have them in our schools,” said Dodson

The Committee on Education and Career Development will vote on Senate Bill 345 next week.

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Wayne Township parents made an awful discovery when they picked their child up from the bus stop Monday.

According to police documents, parents Nathaniel and Elizabeth Searcy claimed someone duct taped their 8-year-old daughter’s legs in order to teach her a lesson.

The child, who has Down Syndrome, attends the Life Skills Program at Westlake Elementary School.

The Searcys told police they knew something was wrong when they went to meet their daughter at the bus stop. They said the bus driver told them they needed to take a look at the little girl’s feet.  That is when they saw duct tape wrapped tightly around her ankles, strapping her shoes to her feet.

According to the police report, the father had to carry his daughter off the bus because he said she was unable to walk due to the tape being so tight. The report also stated the school had trouble getting their daughter to keep her shoes on in the past, but the school would typically call the child’s mother.

It’s still not clear who applied the duct tape to the girl’s ankles.

“When she gets tired, she wants to get her shoes off,” said Nate Searcy. “I mean we’re home before she comes home from school so there’s no reason why they couldn’t call us. I just don’t know why it was any different this time.”

The girl’s father said he will not be sending his daughter back to Westlake Elementary School until he gets answers from the district about how this happened.

“Any parent would have a problem with it if their kid comes home and they have duct tape around their shoes and feet, it’s ridiculous,” Nate Searcy said.

Police are investigating the incident and have notified Child Protective Services.

The Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township spokesperson Mary Lang issued the following statement to Fox59 Tuesday morning:

“We have had the opportunity to meet with the parents of the student involved in this reported incident and have begun our own investigation. We have notified the Indiana Department of Child Services of the incident, and if warranted, we will file a report with the agency. We have also involved our own law enforcement officers in the investigation. When the investigation into this incident is concluded, we will take appropriate action.”

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